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Glacial landform–sediment assemblages in the Canadian High Arctic and their implications for late Quaternary glaciation

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Modern terrestrial glaciers in the Canadian High Arctic range from polythermal to cold-based. Where polythermal glaciers override thick unconsolidated sediment, longitudinal compression and glaciotectonic thrusting produce thrust-block moraines. In contrast, the dominant geomorphic record of cold-based glaciers consists of lateral and proglacial meltwater channels. Geomorphic and sedimentary evidence indicates that late Quaternary fiord glaciers were also characterized by variations in basal thermal regime. Erratic dispersal trains and striated bedrock record the flow of warm-based ice during the Last Glacial Maximum. Emergent grounding-line fans and morainal banks, deposited during deglaciation, consist of heterogeneous glaciomarine deposits that record well-developed subglacial drainage and high sedimentation rates. However, in other fiords, subaqueous outwash and fine-grained glaciomarine deposits are absent and deglaciation is recorded by lateral meltwater channels graded to raised glaciomarine deltas, suggesting these glaciers were predominantly cold-based during retreat. Regionally, deglacial depocentres are located at pinning points within fiords and a prominent belt of glaciogenic landforms at fiord heads records stabilization of ice margins during early Holocene retreat, rather than the limit of late Quaternary glaciation. Collectively, these observations refute previous reconstructions which inferred a climatically controlled switch from cold- to warm-based thermal conditions in fiord glaciers during early Holocene deglaciation, and indicate that the dominant controls on thermal regime were glaciological.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1999

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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